Atomic 212°’s Jason Dooris: “Why Is ‘White Labelling’ Such A Dirty Word In Our Industry?”

Atomic 212°’s Jason Dooris: “Why Is ‘White Labelling’ Such A Dirty Word In Our Industry?”
SHARE
THIS



In his latest B&T column, Atomic 212° supremo, Jason Dooris, takes a look at ‘white labelling’, or why so many agencies can’t/won’t/don’t outsource the tricky stuff…

My son recently asked me how to build a rocket. I wondered if at 11 he would think any less of me as a father for not knowing how to build one. I asked, “What kind of rocket?” He said, “One capable of exiting the Earth’s atmosphere and returning in one piece with a camera activated to film and distribute footage of re-entry into the atmosphere.” He likes to dream big, my son. Without a second thought, I responded: “Of course I can help!”

He smiled, looked at me with pride and said: “Dad, I knew you would know what to do.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 2.34.48 pm

Suddenly we were both happy. My son was confident in my ability to meet the demands of his brief while I was confident that I could find someone to build a rocket. After all, you can buy a rocket in a toy shop, put a man on the moon or a monkey on Venus. I tucked him into bed and muttered that we could discuss budget in the morning.

He had successfully outsourced his project, just as I would need to find partners to make his project a reality. Or is this better described as collaboration rather than outsourcing? Or matching his requirements with the most relevant skills? He slipped off to sleep dreaming of rockets and space, as did I.

This thought of collaboration, outsourcing or ‘white labelling’ has really stuck with me recently. Partly because of its contribution to the early growth of our business, whereby we bolstered our bottom line by handling a range of client briefs for third parties and other agencies. Partly because of its ongoing importance to our business – not only do we continue to service a range of blue chip clients in a white label capacity, we frequently outsource or collaborate with specialist agencies when our clients need niche skillsets (for instance, our recent projects across VR, AR and martech have all involved collaboration with specialist third parties).  But mainly because of the negativity attached to terms like white labelling or outsourcing in our industry.

Why are agencies so fearful of acknowledging their collaboration with specialist parties? To be fair, creative agencies have always recognised their collaborative model. But media agencies are generally stuck in a mindset where they have to pretend they do and own everything. There is a misguided conception that if you acknowledge you are collaborating with specialist partners, you are weak.

But in a time where technology dominates and drives consumer behaviour, where rapid change is the new norm, where large businesses have difficulty evolving rapidly, how can any one agency expect to have all the answers in all scenarios? If a client wants to push into unfamiliar territory, the smartest agencies work with a partner, they share and leverage their credentials as a demonstration of confidence and clarity in meeting this new client challenge – whether it’s building a rocket, constructing a complex mobile app or even something as simple as running a focus group.

Collaboration works for everybody. Most clients want a trusted advisor. They want to sell stuff, meet targets and have a pain-free, educational experience. They love collaboration, and enjoy those rare moments when agencies work well together. They will pay for strong results, and don’t care whether those results are achieved by a single agency or by a collaborative group. And if the work of a collaborative group is presented and branded under a single master agency, why would the client care, provided the master agency is accountable for the quality and the results, and provided any specialist partners are satisfied with the terms of their agency agreement.

Does this mean that we, as agencies, are the problem? Does this mean that our fear of words like collaboration and white labelling, or more accurately, our fear of being seen as a business that outsources, is holding us back? Almost certainly these questions should be answered in the affirmative. Fear is synonymous with fortresses, castles, weapons, blood, battle cries and a raft of other caricatures of inter-agency relations. Today these caricatures have been replaced with lawyers, non-disclosure agreements, threats and denials. They are guarded by account managers armed with protected P&Ls and agency-of-record service contracts.

Agencies that break this mould, who openly embrace collaboration and cross-selling, will emerge the winners in the long run. A perfect example of this is Dentsu’s Posterscope – the multinational agency group Dentsu has developed a best-in-class specialist model that services other agencies. They are pioneers of agency collaboration, but I’m certain some agencies would refuse to work with them (or would never admit to working with them) simply because they belong to a competitor multinational. This attitude is narrow-minded. Another strong example is Mat Baxter’s efforts with multinational giant UM on the local scene – while Mediabrands has an enormous array of services under its roof, Baxter’s UM clearly embraces and sources best practice, both internally and externally.

The reality is that white labelling and outsourcing are widespread, but rarely spoken about publicly by media agencies. It’s the industry’s dirty little secret, which shouldn’t really be dirty at all. Atomic 212°’s first experience with white labelling was when a top three global agency outsourced their weekly client and staff insight reports to our data team. This made sense for both parties, as search and data insights were ingrained in Atomic 212°’s DNA due to our origins in search marketing. Email, data, CRM, coding, forecasting, mobile, content, modelling, the list goes on – and with each of these specialist skillsets you can bet your bottom dollar there is usually an outsourcing relationship.

As an agency, we have been delighted to be exposed to briefs from some of the world’s most complex or renowned brands via white label arrangements. This was particularly the case in our formative years – as an independent agency it was rare for large multinational clients to approach a local independent agency directly. Through the oh-so-dirty practice of white labelling, we were exposed to opportunities from global giants like American Express, Nike, Atlassian and even an exciting Alibaba-funded initiative – in many cases these brands probably didn’t even know they were working with a local agency. Hopefully what they did know was that they got a better and improved business result, and that’s what counts. This same practice also gave us access to domestic giants like Coles, Origin Energy and Telstra. At the same time, our agency was exposed to a broader set of skills in an increasingly fragmented marketing landscape, which cemented our reputation, ability and effectiveness.

A more transparent, collaborative future is inevitable. With this evolution, there will of course be chinks. For instance, who will lay claim to the role of strategic lead or agency lead, or perhaps lead technology agency? Even the seemingly clear-cut area of agency billings is murkier in a world of outsourcing and subcontracting – when three or four businesses are contributing to the same service, shouldn’t they all be able to claim the billings? Does it even matter, particularly when you consider that billings are no true measure of an agency’s health? Another example – in a white labelling landscape, who should take credit in awards entries? Could a media agency who uses Google Analytics rightfully claim an award which they could not have won without the systems, tools and strategic input of Google? This is particularly relevant in a landscape where ‘media owners’ are increasingly acting like agencies in their own right.

Chinks aside, this is a future that agencies and marketeers alike need to embrace. Most of us already do it, but it’s past time we started talking about it. This evolution has truly gathered pace in the past twelve months, which is exciting. If agencies are more open to collaboration, we really can build that rocket.

Please login with linkedin to comment

Atomic 212 Jason Dooris

Latest News

Women In Media Profile: Danni Wright
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Danni Wright

We'd be headlining Danni Wright's Women in Media profile the "Wright stuff" if it wasn't utterly predictable and naff.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Industry Generates A Record $10.5m For Social Impact
  • Media

Industry Generates A Record $10.5m For Social Impact

UnLtd, the media, marketing and creative industry’s social purpose organisation has announced a total industry contribution of $10.5m to social impact in FY18. The total value of funds, services, inventory and time donated by the media, marketing and creative industry increased by 21per cent compared to the previous financial year due to a growth in […]

Posterscope Promotes Two
  • Media

Posterscope Promotes Two

Posterscope, Dentsu Aegis Network’s specialist out-of-home agency, has promoted Ryan Hedditch to the newly created position of national head of strategy and Samantha Summers to Sydney Group Business Director. In his new role, Hedditch is charged with driving the continual improvement and transformation of the Posterscope offering to clients and partners. Summers’ promotion will see her lead […]

Outbrain Accelerates Growth With APAC Promotions
  • Media

Outbrain Accelerates Growth With APAC Promotions

Native discovery platformOutbrain has announced several movements in its regional leadership team, with plans to make more new hires. This comes on the heels of two senior appointments it made in February, after closing a record year in the region with expansion into new markets. Yoav Tourel has been promoted to head of sales for […]

Clems Syd & Extra GUM Unveil YouTube Digital Stage
  • Media

Clems Syd & Extra GUM Unveil YouTube Digital Stage

YouTube EXTRA Gum has launched EXTRA Support Acts, a program created to support Australia’s up and coming musicians by transforming pre-roll ads on YouTube into a digital support stage. It has been created in partnership with Clemenger BBDO Sydney as creative lead, Universal Music Australia and BRING for talent and music strategy and content, MediaCom and YouTube. The […]

OMD Australia Tops 2018 RECMA Rankings
  • Media

OMD Australia Tops 2018 RECMA Rankings

OMD Australia has taken the top spot for Australia’s Number 1 media agency in size, according to RECMA’s 2018 ‘Overall Activity Volume Rankings’ report released last week. Additionally, the company was named first in profile classification with a dominant profile for the 3rd consecutive year, along with vitality ranking and structure ranking. Furthermore, OMD Australia was also named […]

Nine Appoints Editor For 9Honey
  • Media

Nine Appoints Editor For 9Honey

B&T's editor coincidentally spilled honey on his shirt while typing this. And by typing, we mean copy and pasting.

Y&R Sydney Scores Best&Less   
  • Advertising
  • Media

Y&R Sydney Scores Best&Less  

Y&R wins Best&Less amid rumours the clothing shop its changing name to 'Somewhat OK&Reasonably cheap'.

Women In Media Profile: Judy Sahay
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Judy Sahay

B&T's Women in Media profiles are like a wave washing over you. Even more so if an actual wave washes over you.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
How B2B Companies Can Use Their Customer Data More Effectively (And Why They Need To)
  • Marketing
  • Opinion

How B2B Companies Can Use Their Customer Data More Effectively (And Why They Need To)

In this opinion piece, SalesPreso co-founder and CMO Joel Thomson (pictured below) explains how B2B companies can use their data more effectively and deliver a personalised customer experience that matches their B2C counterparts. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the EU’s recent GDPR legislation, this year has prompted individuals all over the world to consider […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
M&C Saatchi Launches THIS Film Studio
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

M&C Saatchi Launches THIS Film Studio

Not one to rest on its laurels, M&C Saatchi unveils new production studio it hasn't called 'Not One To Rest On Laurels'.

Creative Agency Launches Project Management Tool ‘Hassl’
  • Advertising
  • Technology

Creative Agency Launches Project Management Tool ‘Hassl’

Yesterday at TedX Melbourne the team behind award-winning, Melbourne-based agency Your Creative launched their new tech venture Hassl, the project management platform taking on Trello and the likes. With the belief there was a better design solution to project management, the platform has been developed over the last two years in collaboration with their clients. […]

ABC Axes Tom Ballard’s Tonightly
  • Media

ABC Axes Tom Ballard’s Tonightly

It's one of the ABC's edgier, controversial shows, but Tom Ballard's proven too edgy and controversial for ABC chiefs.

Taboola Strengthens APAC Programmatic Offering With New Partnership
  • Advertising
  • Media

Taboola Strengthens APAC Programmatic Offering With New Partnership

Global discovery platform Taboola has announced a strategic partnership with Wider Planet, Korea’s largest demand-side and data management platform. The partnership builds on Taboola’s programmatic efforts in Asia-Pacific, and will bring together Korea’s largest demand platform for agencies and brands to provide access to Taboola’s global audience through premium publisher placements. The partnership means advertisers […]

The Haus Picks Up Two New Clients
  • Marketing

The Haus Picks Up Two New Clients

The Haus announces two new client wins. Admittedly, not as good as winning three, but far better than losing four.